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Gotta have skills!

This past session at FDSA, I taught an online “Life Skills” class. This was a new class for me. While I have taught life skills classes to pet owners in person for over a decade, this was my first time teaching these behaviors online. Even more fun, I got to design a class and exercises that was aimed specifically at performance teams. It’s amazing how many highly skilled sport dogs can’t walk on a loose leash! Well, we are out to change that. 

Life Skills – Real Life Skill for Performance Dogs focused on all of the stuff we need outside the ring: Loose leash walking, polite greeting, public manners, being calm in the house, etc. Of course, all of it taught with positive reinforcement, and not dependent on any particular equipment. Just good training. I really enjoyed this topic, as it is one near and dear to my heart. My babies are pets first, and performance dogs second. So the more pleasant they are to take for hikes and hang out with, the more we enjoy each other. I also find that, as with any behavior, there is a lot of bleed over. Polite greeting skills and good impulse control around distractions make teaching stand for exam and heeling that much easier, even though the two behaviors are completely different.

I think it’s safe to say the class was a screaming success. Over just 6 weeks, I got to see wonderful transformations from out of control teenage dogs into polite, relaxed, happy dogs that were a pleasure to take out for walk around the neighborhood. The handlers went from tense and uncertain to happy and relaxed, too! It makes my heart happy to see teams make such significant progress in such a short time and truly enjoy their time together. I LOVE MY JOB!

One of the students in this class was Harris, the 18 month old golden retriever (and his handler, Becky). Harris had a lot of great formal obedience skills in the ring, but had been really struggling with basic manners every where else. This is what Becky said about her dog at the beginning of class:

“I find that I’m struggling to teach Harris these basic skills using positive methods, so I have resorted to management tools such as head haltis and front clip harnesses. He is a member of overgreeters anonymous and has a severe case of pulling on the leash disorder. If I had a dollar for every time I found myself yelling “Don’t worry, he’s friendly” as he drags me across the sidewalk only to fling himself into the arms of an innocent bystander in the style of Baby Houseman from Dirty Dancing, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have to limit my enrollment in Gold level FDSA courses any longer. The attached picture pretty much sums up his…enthusiasm. :)”

Becky and Harris made wonderful progress together over the course of the class. They made this awesome video, that I loved so much I wanted to share it here, and she was kind enough to let me! Enjoy!

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